Directed by: Harold Ramis
Premise: A pair of rejects (Jack Black and Michael Cera) from a hunter-gatherer tribe leave the forest and discover early civilization. The two find themselves unwittingly involved in the major events of Judeo-Christian mythology such as eating from the tree of knowledge, Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac, and life in the city of Sodom.
What Works: Year One is a clever send up pseudo-historical films like The Passion of the Christ and 10,000 B.C. The story works its way through the major events of the Biblical Book of Genesis and although it is not entirely coherent or Biblically accurate it does flow from one set piece to the next smoothly enough. Michael Cera and Jack Black work very well together and the script capitalizes on the talents of these two performers, giving each the chance to use their respective talents, Cera with his characteristically understated delivery and Black’s over the top style. The dialogue has a lot of great lines and the story is unified enough to make the film more than just a collection of random spoofs of Biblical situations. The film even manages to work in the sliver of a big idea as the characters wrestle with the purpose and meaning of their lives.
What Doesn’t: Year One is a little uneven. A few of the jokes, especially those relying on Cera’s trademark delivery, are a bit overplayed. The film might have some appeal problems; dedicated Christians might be offended by the send up of these Biblical stories but those who enjoy blasphemous humor may not feel that the film goes far enough. If Year One were more decisively on the attack it might have gone beyond being funny and become hysterically subversive.
Bottom Line: Although it is never rolling in the aisles funny, Year One is a successful comedy. It is smarter and subtler than a lot of the sex comedies that have been released recently and it will appeal to fans of Monty Python and Mel Brooks.
Episode: #224 (June 28, 2009)